Coco Gauff isn’t the only one blazing a trail. Meet the Black women playing at the US Open.
Written by B87FM on September 1, 2023
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Tennis star Coco Gauff said losing is fine as long as you learn from it.
Gauff might need to find another way to be schooled. She’s won 13 of 14 matches going into her third-round U.S. Open match tonight (7 p.m.). The tennis world already anticipates the No. 6-ranked Gauff will meet defending champion Iga Swiatek in the quarterfinals.
Gauff has become the latest Black female tennis player to blaze a trail in the sport. Ora Washington won eight tennis titles, including seven in a row beginning in 1929, competing in the old American Tennis Association, which allowed Black players.
Althea Gibson became the first Black woman to win Wimbledon when she won the tournament in 1957. The Williams sisters, arguably, rank as the most dominant siblings ever in tennis. Venus Williams has won seven Grand Slam titles and her sister Serena has 39, which ties her for fourth all-time.
Gauff is just one of a new generation of Black women tennis stars having success on the court. Players from the United States include Taylor Townsend, Sachia Vickery, Robin Montgomery and Clervie Ngounoue, Asia Muhammad, Alycia Parks, Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens.
On Wednesday, the unseeded Townsend, defeated 19th-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maia in a 7-6 (1), 7-5 upset, pushing Thompson into today’s third-round match.
The victory means Townsend, the 132nd ranked player in the world, has defeated two opponents in the top 20 this year, the New York Post reported. Today she has another tough match against No. 10 Karolina Muchova.
In addition to tennis, Townsend has been outspoken about racial and socioeconomic injustices Black people face and how she experiences extra scrutiny when she’s at a match. “Black men are being gunned down and killed in the middle of the street in broad daylight from police officers,” she told Reuters. She said she faces extra security checks at tournaments and people often mistake her for some of the other Black women on tour.
Sachia Vickery defeated the No. 21 seeded player, Donna Vekic of Croatia, in three games Wednesday at the USTA Billie Jean King, National Tennis Centre, New York – marking one of the biggest upsets of the U.S. Open competition this year.
Vickery, unseeded in the Open and ranked No. 204 in the world, won by 2-6, 7-5, and 6-2 scores. Last week, she went undefeated in winning the U.S. Open qualifying competition.
Vekic’s chances of moving on to the second round were dashed by a 67% first serve rate, seven aces, and just two double faults.
In addition, Vickery, an American whose parents were born in Guyana, converted four of nine breakpoint opportunities compared to her opponent’s three of 13.
Robin Montgomery and Clervie Ngounoue
On Saturday, the 17-year-old Montgomery won the U.S. Junior Girls singles title by defeating Belarussian Kristina Dmitruk 6-2, 6-4 to start what turned out to be a successful afternoon for young female tennis winners, The Washington Post reported.
After a brief break, Montgomery returned to win the girls’ doubles title with Texas’ Ashlyn Krueger. Montgomery and Krueger defeated Reese Brantmeier, 16, of Whitewater, Wisconsin, and Elvina Kalieva, 18, of Staten Island, New York, 5-7, 6-4 (10-4), in an all-American final.
Montgomery is the first player to win the girl’s singles and doubles championships since Michaella Krajicek of the Netherlands in 2004.
Tennis’ second-ranked junior Ngounoue defeated Anna Blinkova, then ranked No. 37 in the world, 6-3, 6-2, in the opening round of the qualifying draw at the DC Open, according to The Post.
Ngounoue had just won the Wimbledon girls’ singles championship with blue braids in her hair and an aggressive backhand slice; it was an outstanding triumph in her maiden WTA event and a full-circle moment that also seemed like a start.
“Obviously, I have goals — playing the Olympics — but I feel like the sky’s the limit,” Ngounoue said, The Post reported. “I never saw myself winning Wimbledon, and I see myself doing a lot. But that one just never felt like, ‘Oh, go win Wimbledon juniors.’ I want every experience to feel that way. I felt like I knew what I was capable of. But going through that experience … I liked the surprise.”
Muhammad played doubles with Caroline Dolehide. The team lost to the 2020 Open champs Vera Zvonareva and Laura Siegemund on Thursday, 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. Muhammad, ranked No. 41 in doubles has eight doubles titles in her career.
Parks and her doubles partner, Sophie Chang head to the second round on Saturday following a 6-3, 6-4 victory over. Parks, ranked No. 28 in the world in doubles and also ranks No. 42 in singles, lost her singles match on Tuesday to No. 13 seed Daria Kasatkina 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Parks told Tennis Panorama that she wants to finish in the top 20 in singles this year. “I just know that I have the rest of this year to reach my goals so that’s really the focus,” she said after the loss.
Keys, 28, heads to the third round after dispatching Dutch player Arantxa Rus 6-2, 6-4 and then Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer, 6-1, 6-2. Keys, seeded No. 17, has a tough third-round match against No. 14-seeded Liudmila Samsonova on Saturday,
Keys is coming off a quarterfinal loss in Wimbledon 2023, which marks her best-ever showing.
Keys, who has a Black father, doesn’t identify as white or Black. According to Andscape, the first American woman to reach the top 10 of the WTA rankings since Serena Williams in 1999, the tennis pro doesn’t care to be anyone – or anything – other than herself.
While her ancestry is historically considered Black, she reportedly told the New York Times in 2015, “I don’t really identify myself as white or African-American. I’m just me. I’m Madison.”
Keys took command of the match right away, winning the opening four games and sweeping to win the first set 6-2. In the second set, the competition level increased, but Keys’ poise helped her defeat her 32-year-old rival.
Stephens had a quick exit from the Open, losing in the first round 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 to No. 19-seeded Beatriz Haddad Maya. The loss continued her struggles in Grand Slam events this year.
She’s currently ranked No. 36 overall, a far fry from the lofty No. 3 ranking she held in 2018.
“To be out in the first round is difficult,” Stephens told the New York Post. “I think that the tennis that I’ve been playing is good, and I can be proud of that.” She added, “I think there’s still a little bit of tennis left in the year to kind of make some moves, so I’m just going to try to do that, try not to sulk about this too much.
The 21-year-old Washington, D.C., native lost out to Diana Shnaider on Aug. 23, which booted her from the tournament. But, she has some great wins under her belt. She is currently ranked 171st in the world for singles and earlier this month, beat 23rd-ranked Karolina Pliskova.
“It’s just more proof that I am where I belong and that I can continue to rise up in the rankings,” Baptiste told the Washington Post after her Aug. 1 win. “The goals that I do have are not out of reach. They’re closer than I think.”
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